Outdoor brands leverage lightness in expanding adventure travel category

The steadfast outdoor equipment traits of making products more durable, lightweight and functional continue to creep into a growing number of travel-oriented packs and luggage. That's attracting more outdoor brands to the category. SNEWS recaps the latest adventure travel packs and luggage debuted at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

The steadfast outdoor equipment traits of making products more durable, lightweight and functional continue to creep into a growing number of travel-oriented packs and luggage shown at Outdoor Retailer.

Outdoor and travel consumers are becoming one in the same — frequently meeting in the middle within the burgeoning adventure travel market — manufacturers told SNEWS. These consumers demand the same type of outdoor durability and functionality in their gear when facing cobblestone streets and paths less traveled abroad.

“People are really drawn to rollers for the airport, but they’re soon finding themselves on a dirt road, or maybe there’s a security concern, and they want the ability to attach that pack or luggage to their body,” said Gareth Martins, director of marketing for Osprey.

And spoiled by their lightweight technical outdoor packs, consumers are demanding light travel gear, manufacturers said, especially with more airlines placing weight limits on luggage. Lightweight is a trend the outdoor industry is well familiar with, and it’s how many outdoor brands are claiming their stake in the travel market.

At Winter Market, Osprey debuted its new Ozone Series of lightweight travel rollers with three models — an 18-inch, 36-liter (MSRP $199); 22-inch, 46-liter (MSRP $229); 28-inch, 80-liter (MSRP $249) — which weigh four to five pounds, compared to the typical 8 to 10 pounds, Martins said.

“We’re using a lot of the same lightweight and durable materials that we use in our packs,” he said. That includes 210-denier nylon fabrics and aluminum frames.

Deuter is taking what it has learned in outdoor packs by introducing women-specific versions of its latest TravelerSL line of packs – 55+10-liter (MSRP $279); 70+10-liter (MSRP $289); 80+10-liter (MSRP $299). Eagle Creek does likewise with four new women-specific travel bags for its Classic Day Travelers collection — including the Sophia Shoulder Bag (MSRP $70), Audine Laptop Brief (MSRP $98) and Hanna Satchel (MSRP $88) — which have slimmer profiles and more feminine designs.

“Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean your pack has to be one-size-fits-all,” said Todd Walton, Deuter spokesman. He said the brand continues to expand its travel offerings because retailers are demanding it. In travel packs, Walton said the top trend continues to be cleaner designs — particularly the ability for the user to stow away straps and cinch down the pack if it needs to be checked.

Travel gear design intended for the outdoor industry is moving toward brighter colors and unique patterns, said Stella Peterson, director of public relations at High Sierra Sport Co. “Plaids, greens, blues, purples — those in the outdoor industry are looking for aesthetics that stand out, something that reflects their personality.”

Travelers aren’t only packing lighter, but also smaller, so they can avoid airline bag fees and bring everything as carry-ons, vendors said. To help ensure carry-on compliance, both Briggs & Riley and Osprey are introducing additional smaller versions of some of their more popular travel packs and luggage. Briggs & Riley brings its new Exchange 20 Duffle (MSRP $155), which can go from a duffle to a backpack in one zip, and Osprey adds the Fairpoint 40 (MSRP $149) to its travel pack line.

With less space, consumers are seeking more organization at less weight, said Candyce Johnson, vice president of marketing at Eagle Creek. That led Eagle Creek to revamp its Pack-It internal organization sacks, cubes and folders with a new lightweight Spectre series (MSRPs $12-$32).

Consumers also want to be organized and prepared for what’s becoming the most stressful part of traveling – security checkpoints at airports. That’s led to the latest travel packs for laptops, such as Gregory’s new 18-, 25-, 35-liter Border (MSRPs $99, $129, $159), featuring TSA-approved “checkpoint friendly” clamshell openings to allow for security scans without removal of the computer. Grand Trunk also had security checkpoints in mind for its new Travel Field Pouches in three different sizes (MSRPs $10, $15, $20). The pouches with a tough nylon exterior, polyurethane interior and a hook-and-loop opening allow travelers to quickly and securely place all their loose personal belongings (keys, phone, watch, wallet) in one place, instead of scattered in an unsanitary airport security bin.

Specific to the Winter Market crowd — and also targeting the carry-on trend — High Sierra continues to see success in making luggage designed to transport ski/snowboard boots and helmets as carry-ons, such as the High Sierra Bucket Boot Bag (MSRP $50), said Peterson.

“The one piece of gear people don’t want to lose when they travel,” she said, “is their boots.”

–David Clucas